LTS Podcast Ep. 4: Community Involvement - A Conversation


In this episode Jonathan Jones and Aaron Heim are joined by Nicki Johnson, the Director of Volunteer Services and In-Kind Gifts at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and Steve Hower, the Director of Corporate Relations at Heart to Heart International, a relief organization based in Lenexa, KS. This episode was recorded on April 17.


Episode 4: Community Involvement - A Conversation with Two of Our Partners

Jonathan Jones: [00:00:00] Good morning. Welcome to episode four of DEMDACO's Lift the Spirit Podcast. This is Jonathan Jones, and I'm joined by my co-host Aaron Heim.

Aaron Heim: Good to see you again, Jon.

Jonathan Jones: I'm excited about this episode this morning. And this morning we're gonna be talking about DEMDACO's community involvement. We have two guests joining us.

We have Nicki Johnson, the director of volunteer services and in-kind gifts with Children's Mercy Hospital here in Kansas City, and Steve Hower from Heart to Heart International. He's the Director of Corporate Relations. DEMDACO has had long-term relationships with both of these organizations, so thank you for joining us.

Nicki Johnson: Thank you.

Steve Hower: Thanks, Jonathan. Good to be here.

Jonathan Jones: Nicki, let's go ahead and start with you. Tell us where you work, how long you've been there, and what do we need to know about your role at Children's Mercy.

Nicki Johnson: Yeah, so I work [00:01:00] at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. I've been at Children's Mercy for 23 years. I started as a child life specialist working with children on the burn unit in the intensive care unit.

And my career during that time led me to work with a lot of the volunteers, which I really enjoy. So further in my career I became the Director of Volunteer Services and in kind giving.

Thanks, Nicki. Steve, tell us about Heart to Heart and your role. How long have you been there, et cetera.

Steve Hower: Thank you.

So Heart to Heart International is a global humanitarian organization based in Lenexa, Kansas. We, our mission is to improve access to healthcare. In under-resourced communities and in time of disaster. My role is director of corporate relations, so I am the liaison between our major pharmaceutical and medical supply companies and and Heart to Heart.

So making sure that we have product, cash and volunteers for to meet our mission.

Jonathan Jones: Great. And Steve, [00:02:00] I know you worked in retail before joining Heart to Heart, is that correct?

Steve Hower: And that is correct. I actually started at the Y M C A after college, which leads me to later coming to Heart to Heart. But when we moved to Kansas City, I went into retail.

Couple different places. So operations warehouse management, which then allowed me to have time off during the week. So I actually volunteered at Heart to Heart on my days off. So about nine years before I started at working at Heart to Heart, I was a volunteer there.

Jonathan Jones: Great. Nicki, how did you end up at Children's Mercy?

Nicki Johnson: I knew at a very young age that I wanted to have a career in the medical field. So. I really wanted to be a part of Children's Mercy and I went to school to be a child life specialist and landed my internship there. And from there I was hired. And

Jonathan Jones: doesn't Children's Mercy now have an accredited child life program?

Nicki Johnson: Yes. So we had a program through [00:03:00] the Child Life Organization where we have certified Child Life Specialists. We have over 45 at Children's Mercy, when I started, there were only about 10 of us. I was one of the first interns to go through the program,

Jonathan Jones: and if I remember right, did Children's Mercy a couple of years ago start tracking the, no one could see me doing air quotes, but the touches or the visits by the volunteers, and they can now demonstrate that the more interactions that a child has, the shorter the healing time.

The quicker the recovery. Am I remembering that correctly?

Nicki Johnson: You are correct. As professionals, we wanted to track just like the clinical staff what our touchpoints were with kids. So we provide a census to our volunteers each morning and they track their interventions, whether it's a bedside visit with crafts or holding a baby at the bedside or bringing a child to the playroom.

Jonathan Jones: That's great. Nicki, you know, Kansas City, I've always thought is fortunate to[00:04:00] have. Organizations like Children's Mercy and Heart to Heart. You know, often when here at DEMDACO we've had guests from Children's Mercy or all talk about DEMDACO's involvement in the community, and we've, we've done a lot with Children's Mercy over the years and sometimes in new hire orientation or other meetings, I'll ask for a show of hands who all has had a child or knows someone who's had a child at Children's Mercy.

And without fail, almost every hand goes up. And it's just an incredible that the reach that Children's Mercy has, not only in Kansas City but regionally, and then with Heart to Heart. I think Heart to Heart is, is a familiar name in Kansas City because often you get news coverage, but I know people have no idea the reach of Heart to Heart across the country.

And really internationally in times of disaster, providing some of those basic needs that that people need. So it's amazing that we have these two organizations here in Kansas City. So I'm gonna ask, just kind of get down to some day-to-day stuff, Nicki, [00:05:00] what's a typical day for you? I'm guessing it's different every day.

Nicki Johnson: Oh, you are so right. Jonathan. No day is the same. My day typically starts out by just a walk through Children's Mercy to get to my office, and I'm always inspired just by walking in the hallways, at Children's Mercy and seeing the kids. And then my work really involves support from the community, so working with our volunteers and also all of the toy donations that come to Children's Mercy come through our office.

So a day does not go by where we don't hear the bell ring when little kids bring in toys for the kids. And then putting those toys away and thanking our donors in the community. We also on a day-to-day basis, have community volunteers that come in and provide activities for kids. So lots of different opportunities in my office and never the same thing.

Jonathan Jones: And it at the hospital don't you have volunteers? Is it starting at 9:00 AM or is it 6:00 AM.

Nicki Johnson: You are correct, it's [00:06:00] 9:00 AM. We do have one gentleman that comes in at 6:00 AM to help our pathfinders, our families that are heading to same day surgery get to where they need to go. So he's a retired gentleman and says he was already getting up early, so might as well come in and help the families.

Jonathan Jones: And, and those shifts are three hour shifts, so, so you typically have volunteer coverage, if possible, from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Correct. Is that seven days a week or five days a week? Seven days a week. Wow. That's a lot. Steve, what's a typical day for you? I imagine working with different companies? It's no, two days are the same.

Steve Hower: Heart to Heart is a very small organization. We have 50 staff totals, so everything we do, It utilizes and engages volunteers. So there are volunteers at the front desk. Actually, there's volunteers. We have a volunteer who has been with us since 2009. I think she puts in more hours a week than I do.

Eddie, I think you've probably met her and worked with her in the kit assembly, but she drives from Lansing every morning and she's there to greet all the volunteers that [00:07:00] come in to build kits.

Jonathan Jones: Can I interrupt for just a minute, Steve, you've mentioned the kits. Can you explain what Heart to Hearts hygiene kits are and how many a week or month do you do and distribute?

Steve Hower: So the hygiene kits are a personal hygiene kit. So they've got toothpaste, toothbrush, hi soap, shampoo, the things that you need on a daily basis that we take for granted. Every day I'm getting up and brushing our teeth, or combing your hair, or washing your hair. These are all things that in time of disaster, when people are displaced from their homes, they leave everything.

So whether they end up in a shelter or whether they end up living with or staying with families, these are things that hopefully help them, can maintain a little bit of a dignity and, and, you know, just feeling better about yourself.

Jonathan Jones: Do you feel like people who are in those situations, just that simple act of normalcy, I'm brushing my teeth, I've combed my hair, helps them cope with the really, the chaos that's going on around them?

Steve Hower: Yeah, I think, I think it definitely does. Again, it's [00:08:00] like anything, as you know, getting up and getting dressed, whether you're going to a meeting, you're gonna dress up a little bit if you're gonna go to a meeting. But having just that sense of normalcy, it's like, okay, I have chaos everywhere else in my life, but this, I can control how I look and hopefully how I feel.

Aaron Heim: All right. I'm gonna go back to Nicki on this one here. So, We all have good days at work, obviously, but what, what has been the most rewarding thing about the work you've gotten to do for the past your tenure at, at Children's Mercy

Jonathan Jones: and re remind us again how many years you've been there?

Nicki Johnson: 23 years.

That's a tough question. I would say in my current role, working with volunteers and the community, the most rewarding part of my job is to be able to identify to corporations, what the needs are of our patients and families and them specifically identifying how they can help. And I will provide just a brief example of what I mean by that.

Jonathan and I worked [00:09:00] on an amazing project for children siblings during bereavement situations where we worked on having a bag for those kids that lost their brother or sister in the hospital. It was a need that wasn't being filled by our community. And Jonathan mentioned that DEMDACO, he felt had great product that we could provide in the bereavement bag.

So DEMDACO's plush is provided in the bag.

Jonathan Jones: And, and just for those listening, plush is the industry term for stuffed animals.

Nicki Johnson: Stuffed animals.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. There we go.

Nicki Johnson: See, I've, I've got the DEMDACO lingo. No night, Jonathan. And it also contains a blanket and some resources for the brother or sister.

And so it's projects that like that and working with companies to provide that support during really hard times for our family. That brings a lot of meaning and reward to the work that I do.

Jonathan Jones: I, I think, and, and I have spent a, a, a good amount of time at Children's Mercy. I think one of the things that always just is a [00:10:00] sober reminder that.

You know, people are at the hospital because of something's not going well and you, you typically, it's easy to go and think, oh, they're gonna be at the hospital and then, then they're gonna get better and they're gonna go home. And it's always, again, sobering to be reminded that sometimes when those families go home, it's not a happy moment.

And they're faced with something they could never have imagined. And it's amazing to see how Children's Mercy interacts with those families in such a delicate time and, and interacts with those families with grace and Mercy. That's probably how I describe it. So it's been amazing to watch that Nicki

Steve, what about you in Heart to Heart? What's been some of the rewarding things you've been able to do?

Steve Hower: I think I'm gonna echo Nicki. Really it's about the connections, you know, Heart to Heart. We are connectors. [00:11:00] Connecting you to a world in need is really one of our taglines that we've had for a long time.

And, you know, there are so many people out there that want to give and help, they just don't know how. So being able to provide opportunities for meaningful service for people specifically in my role with the corporates, again, it's the same thing with Nicki. It's okay. What is, what is our mission? What are the things that we need?

What corporate, what is your mission and, and the things that you are trying to accomplish? And how do we work together to benefit both missions and serve more people? Thanks. This

Jonathan Jones: question's not on the, the list I sent you ahead of time, but, you know, Kansas City's known for its generosity around the country.

How have you seen Kansas City come through for your organizations? You can e either one of you just jump in.

Steve Hower: Yeah, no, it's been incredible for us. Again, I, one of the things that Heart Heart's always been fairly small and, you know, we kind of just do things by the by the boots start can just make things [00:12:00] happen.

But I think the Kansas City community has really rallied behind us through all of this, and even over the last three years, just working even more closely with those folks in Kansas City through this pandemic and, and being able to support and reach more people. So

Nicki, what about Children's Mercy? How have you seen Kansas City rally around Children's Mercy?

Nicki Johnson: I would say during my time, the biggest Moment where the community rallied was for the build of our Children's Mercy Research Institute which you can see up on the hill. We had so many philanthropic gifts come through to make that possible and to find hope and healing for the kids of Kansas City and beyond Kansas City.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, it's great to be a part of this community. Moving on through our questions and Nicki, I'll, I'll stay with you. What's been one of your hardest days or hardest periods of time that you've experienced?

Nicki Johnson: I think the [00:13:00] hardest time was during my clinical role at Children's Mercy. As I mentioned, I worked on the burn unit so I saw many children come in with burn injuries and I was really naive to think that kids came into a burn unit for house fires or accidental burns.

And I saw a lot of kids that were really in unfortunate situations.

Jonathan Jones: Oh, that had to be hard.

Nicki Johnson: So that part was really hard to witness those situations and to, to see those kids go through the burn treatments that they had to the tubbing and the, and the healing of, of a burn injury.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I, I can't imagine.

Steve, what about you?

Steve Hower: So, prior to my role as corporate relations, I was actually volunteer director. I was program director. So in, I also can drive our mobile medical unit. I have a cdl, so being able to

Jonathan Jones: deploy Real briefly talk, [00:14:00] just describe the , mobile medical unit so people can imagine what you're talking about.


Steve Hower: So the mobile medical unit is a 48 foot class A motor home, if you will, outfitted as a, an exam room, more patient where the doctors can see patients. When we deploy in time of disaster, we'll pull up and maybe partner with a hospital that's been damaged and so maybe do triage with their patients out in the mole milk unit so it can, you know, see patients there do, they can do minor surgeries and, and some things.

But just being able to be that triage on what, where people need to be and, and be able to do what. If we can immediately or be able to refer them Yep. To someone more.

Jonathan Jones: Okay, great. Thanks. Okay. Now back before I interrupted you, so before you became the director. Yeah.

Steve Hower: So actually one of the first deployments I did was actually to New Orleans after Katrina.

So just the devastation and you know, it's, We've been through tornadoes in Kansas, and you might have a part [00:15:00] of town that's destroyed or something, but to just drive through the miles and miles of the city of New Orleans and it's just like a ghost town,

Jonathan Jones: was the scale of it overwhelming?

Steve Hower: It was very overwhelming.

You know, again, you see houses, you see cars that might be in their driveway, but it might be up. You know, next to the house you see just desolation and no people, just, it's, it's eerie. So I think it's just realizing that that person, those people's entire lives, their home, their church, their school, their grocery stores, whatever, everything is gone.

Aaron Heim: I think, you know, we all do what we do because we get a lot of emotional rewards as a result of the work. For you, for you both, and maybe we'll start with you Steve. What's one of, what's been one of the best days or the best periods in your tenure at Heart to Heart?

Steve Hower: I think it's hard to say.

I think again, the biggest thing [00:16:00] for me is understanding and realizing that everyone out there wants to do something and wants to give. And so being able to deploy people in multiple phases, around the world and different programming, whether it's disaster or helping in one of the former Soviet republics with medical education or anything, but just seeing the, the joy that the volunteers receive by going and, and being able to help. But also we've experienced a lot of the opportunity where the folks on the receiving end, you know, it's, it's amazing to them that people will give up their vacation time and pay their own way. To come and help them.

It's been very meaningful and I think we've had multiple interpreters and different people that we've worked with in other countries that that's really stuck with them and it's changed their lives as well.

Jonathan Jones: Nicki, what about you? What's been the, as you take back over your time at Children's Mercy, what's been one of your [00:17:00] best days?

Nicki Johnson: There are so many best days or best moments that it's hard to pick. But I would say one of my best days was when a young gentleman walked into my office to give an in-kind donation, and I realized that he used to be a former patient that I took care of. Wow. Wow. And but, but you took care of Yes.

Wow. And he said Nicki, you took care of me when I was up on the burn unit and you helped me get to camp in Colorado. And I wanted to come back and give back to the kids because of what you did for me. And while it's not about me , I see this, I get to witness this every day where we have grateful families or patients that walk through our door and they tell their story of why they give.

And it's an honor of someone they lost at Children's Mercy. Or it's a patient that was cared for many years ago that is walking back. So get, getting to [00:18:00] walk that journey with them and to ask the questions and see them light up to be able to talk about their child that they're providing a gift in honor of, is probably the most humbling and rewarding part of my work also.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, I got to witness something the other day, so I volunteer at Children's Mercy on Thursday afternoons. And I was in Nicki's office, this was a couple weeks ago, and, and a mom and two kids came in and the kids looked like they were like 8, 9, 10, something like that. And I'm just standing there, but I'm listening.

And they raise chickens and sell eggs and they bring their egg money to donate to Children's Mercy. Now, I don't know if they're former patients or not, or Yes, they are. Okay. Yeah, he is. Yeah. So then I thought that is just an incredible teachable moment for those kids, for everyone in that, that room. Here are these kids who are, who are giving back through something that you would, would never imagine.

Like, how can we get back to Children's Mercy? Well, let's, [00:19:00] let's raise chickens and sell eggs. So,

Nicki Johnson: yes. And the patient that you're referring to she was actually a patient in our neonatal intensive care unit, which is where Jonathan serves. So was a baby there for many months. And her mom is on one of our patient family advisory councils through Children's Mercy.

So helps other NICU moms. And Katie is one of our junior champions which is a youth program that we have that teaches kids about philanthropy. And so Katie was trying to think of creative ways to provide a financial gift to the hospital. So what better way than to get her eggs and sell them into her community?

And bring in the dollars. Yes. So we, we absolutely adore Katie. That

Jonathan Jones: is so great. And I, I'm guessing that when people know that they're buying eggs and the money's going to Children's Mercy, they might get a little bit more. Oh yeah. These are

Nicki Johnson: not three to $6 eggs. They're given like 20 to 50. That's great.

Jonathan Jones: So I'm gonna transition to DEMDACO's relationship with Children's Mercy and Heart to Heart.[00:20:00] So Steve, I'll start with you. How long has the relationship been and, and describe our work with Heart to Heart over the years?

Steve Hower: So our relationship with DEMDACO started in 2005 actually around the Katrina incident that I, that we talked about before with financial giving from the organization. Not only from the company, but I think involving the employees and the employee match. Then exactly the same year DEMDACO stepped in Heart to Heart again.

Was looking at trying to improve our Resource our facilities and DEMDACO supported us with a brand new IT system, which we desperately needed at the time. From there, after that we worked with you guys. We had a old warehouse that was given it to us down in Kansas City, Kansas. It was an old postal distribution center.

Needed a lot of work, but. It was donated to us, so of course we, we took it. But DEMDACO stepped in and helped us with financial support in making some much needed renovations [00:21:00] there. Air conditioning, heating. It had no heat before, so Oh, wow. Really supported us again financially in multiple ways through the years with the volunteers from DEMDACO either coming to our facility to build hygiene kits.

You guys have hosted hygiene kit assemblies here at your facility. Yeah. And then recently you guys had support for our fundraising event as well. You have employees that served on the committee and also helped us with the decor for the event. Yep.

Jonathan Jones: You know, I was aware of some of the other ways that we helped.

I did not know about the IT system. Yeah. Yeah. So that's great. Nicki, what about Children's Mercy?

Nicki Johnson: So the relationship with Children's Mercy started initially through financial gifts to our Child Life Department, which is the department that works directly with kids. I had the honor of coming to DEMDACO one day about 12 years ago with one of our gift officers.

And I will never forget that day, I [00:22:00] walked into this beautiful showroom with all of this product and I was meeting with Jonathan and said, Jonathan, what exactly do you do with all of this incredible product, the samples? And he said, well, we open it up to the employees at the end of the year. And I said, you know, I wanna ask you every holiday season, it's been a dream to bring patients downstairs in the hospital to this community room and have this shopping experience for their parents or their caregiver. And I, I looked at Jonathan and I could tell his wheels were turning

Jonathan Jones: as they do,

Nicki Johnson: as they do. And from there grew this amazing program that we've been having for over 12 years.

Jonathan Jones: This, this December will be the 12th year. Yes.

Nicki Johnson: Called the DEMDACO Shop. And we had fun dollars that we provide the kids, so they learn about how to spend their money. Although,

Jonathan Jones: I, I always like to say that the [00:23:00] children shop with DEMDACO dollars, were not asking kids to come down and spend their own money.

Nicki Johnson: And from there it grew into many, many more things with DEMDACO in different different initiatives or, or services that we needed for patients and families.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. And one of the things that, that holiday pop-up store as we also call it, is one of my favorite days. We mentioned in past episodes that each full-time colleague gets five Lift the Spirit Days where they can be involved in the community and the store at Children's Mercy has been a very, very popular one.

During the pandemic we had to do it over Microsoft Teams two times and last year we were able to be in person, but it's always just an incredible event and in it's, it's evolved. I remember those first ones. It was samples about two years in our owner said can you make sure there's new product at the Children's Mercy Pop-Up store?

In fact, I think the exact words [00:24:00] were, I I would like everything that's available in this store that the kids can shop in is the same product that's available in any store that sells DEMDACO products. So, It's been a, a highlight and again, we're looking forward to that first week in December.

Nicki Johnson: And there there's just so many ways that DEMDACO touches the kids and the parents at Children's Mercy.

And I think of every child that goes back to same day surgery or goes back for a surgery is provided a stuffed animal or what I call plush to carry back with them. And sometimes those are the scariest times for kids. Going alone back to this room that doesn't look familiar to 'em, and to be able to have something to hold and snuggle and to call their friend.

And then I think back to the times that we traveled up to the nursery with DEMDACO and we had a photographer and beautiful frames from DEMDACO for Mother's Day and seeing moms at bedside. I have chills right now telling this story. Just get excited [00:25:00] because somebody remembered them as a mom on Mother's Day, you don't expect to spend your first Mother's Day in the hospital.

Jonathan Jones: Steve, you mentioned the hygiene kits that Heart to Heart puts together in disaster situations. What are some of the other ways that you come alongside communities?

Steve Hower: So our corporate donors, our corporate partners again, are the major pharmaceutical medical supply companies. So all of them donate medicines and medical supplies to Heart to Heart.

So we probably do about 270 to 300 million worth of pharmaceuticals and medical supplies coming through our facility each year we're over 2 billion for our history. So with those medicines and medical supplies, we support frontline service agencies in communities that are under-resourced or in time of disaster.

So again, it's a lot of the medicines and medical supplies, the improving their ability to reach [00:26:00] the people and impact the people in their community. So we're really kind of a business to business and making sure that they've got what they need to meet the needs of the people in the communities.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah, that's, that's great. And I've been in that part of your warehouse where you see all that product that's been donated. It's pretty, pretty amazing. What are some specific needs that you have right now, Nicki?

Nicki Johnson: Yeah. So some specific needs we have right now. Just to give you an idea, we have currently today about 252 kids in the hospital. And those kids still wanna be kids, just like any kid. They need things to play with. They have birthdays while they're here. They want to do art projects. And all of that helps with the healing process. So I would say what we need most right now are just common things that kids play with new toys, art supplies coloring books

Jonathan Jones: and, and you really do need new [00:27:00] product, not gently used. And, and that's also for hygiene reasons as well.

Nicki Johnson: Yes. So, Jonathan, is correct. Due to our infection control guidelines and the children being in a clinical setting, we do need items that are new stuffed animals with tags on them products that are not stored for long periods of time.

Jonathan Jones: . Steve, what are some things that you need now?

Steve Hower: So we've talked about the hygiene kits and I think that again is, is one of our first line of defense and time of disaster and, and supporting communities. So we will distribute probably over 300,000 hygiene kits this year, that need is, we can never meet that need.

So I think that would be the first thing that folks could support us with. And, you know, with their groups coming in and supporting building of hygiene kits or just donating funds online for us to be able to build those kits.

Jonathan Jones: And, and before we go on what is the website?

Steve Hower: [00:28:00] Just simply Heart to

Jonathan Jones: And they can find, just look for the donate button. Correct?


Nicki, what about Children's Mercy?

Nicki Johnson: Yeah, so they can go to our Children's website under ways to give, there is different opportunities to volunteer, to provide gifts of in-kind or to provide a monetary gift to the hospital.

Aaron Heim: So the work you guys both do is incredibly important, not only for Kansas City, but for the for the world. And a lot comes with that. There's a lot of stress. There's a lot of day-to-day things that you don't see coming. We all need to recharge our batteries. We all need to have things that, that stir our souls. And I'm, I'm curious as to Nicki, what is, what is giving you life right now outside of, of what you do? Or maybe it is part of what you do?

Nicki Johnson: It's actually a part of what I do. My team is what gives me life. I have an incredible team. We have a small team, but we are a mighty team of 10 of us. [00:29:00] And the opportunity to walk in each day and see them so engaged with the work that we do and the mission of the hospital their enthusiasm.

We've gone through a lot of change management. Right now we're getting ready to build a, a really big in-kind toy warehouse for the kids. And so we're, we're visioning out our future and it's what actually inspires me because they are ready for the change. They're ready to move forward. Because what is always at the top and most the biggest priority for them is to make sure that we're meeting the needs of the kids and the families at Children's Mercy.

And that is evident. We like to have fun. We have guiding principles that we stand by each day that help guide our interactions with the people that come through our doors. And I think it's really the culture of Children's Mercy that is being developed right now is what is inspiring me to [00:30:00]wanna be a part of something bigger than, than myself and my team is what inspires me actually.

Jonathan Jones: And Aaron, I'll, I'll jump in here. Having now been involved in Nicki's sphere of influence, if you will at Children's Mercy. I've just observed that over the years. Steve, what about you? What's giving you life right now?

Steve Hower: You know, just the quiet time. So every morning I spend about three hours. I'm up with our awesome, beautiful golden retriever every morning and we hang out.

Jonathan Jones: What's your, what's your dog's name?

Steve Hower: Molly. She turned 11 in December. So we have about three hours to just hang out and I'll, I'll be on the treadmill for an hour and we'll hang outside for about an hour before I have to go to work, and then she sometimes gets to go to work with me, which then she brings joy and, and comfort to everybody at, at the office. But as far as work, I mean, actually there are, it's been incredible. Again, I think we, we've talked about the, or I've talked about the pandemic over the last few years, and I think it's just really [00:31:00] taken a toll on a, on everybody. You know, again, it's one of the, I talked about New Orleans and the vastness of the destruction, but this was a global, global pandemic and for Heart to Heart, it's been an incredible few years as far as people stepping up and not like they haven't before, but it's just, it's maintained and, and been there for us with finances and, and people supporting us and volunteers coming in and, and having our new facility.

What we, which we just moved into in 2019 was perfect timing because then we could still be at work with our small team cuz we have such a huge facility. So we were able to continue to do what we need to do.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. Was amazing for, for both Childrens Mercy and Heart to Heart. You may plan your week, but you don't know what's gonna happen.

Right? And you know, it may be a trauma situation, a tornado, a flood. And, and that's what I tell our colleagues here at DEMDACO. Cuz sometimes we've been asked, when we've done hygiene kits, are the hygiene kits that we're preparing today, are they gonna [00:32:00] go to this tornado or are they gonna go to this area?

And my answer's always, maybe, but really what the model is, is to stockpile those. That when something terrible does happen, you're prepared. Right? Or at Children's Mercy, all the programs that you have set up because again, you don't know what's gonna happen. You don't know what children are gonna be there that day and the way you prepare, whether it's the bereavement bags or the the Happy Kits, which we've also assembled, which are gallon Ziploc bags with coloring books and stickers and different things for the patients and siblings to be able to have something to do.

The week comes at you rather than you kind of take on the week. And so you're doing amazing, amazing work. So thank both of you for joining us this week.

Steve Hower: Well, thank you, Jonathan. We greatly appreciate DEMDACO's partnership. We can't do what we do without our great partners.

Aaron Heim: Yeah. So I, I really wanna thank you both for [00:33:00] being here.

For me personally, both organizations have touched my lives. I've got three children who have been to Children's Mercy over the years for different reasons, and it's always been, like Jonathan said earlier, it's always a stressful situation that you're going there, but we're always felt like they're in the best place they can possibly be for what they were going through.

And Steve, you and I were talking earlier about some of the work that Heart to Heart had done when the Joplin, Missouri tornadoes hit years ago. My wife's grandma, grandma and grandpa were in the heart of the tornado when it happened. They were right downtown. In fact, they were almost home when it hit and the sky went black.

And they said, what do we do? And they gunned. They just hit the gas in their car. They ran into a tree, and the tree is what held them from flying up in the air and losing them. So they lost their house. They lost a lot of other things. So the fact that you're here today too, as a personal you know, it's a personal story for me too, so I was really thrilled that you both took the time to do this today, to come in and talk to us both, and I just wanted to [00:34:00] say thank you for that.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. And, and, and I know both of you know that the work and the organizations you work for, they are doing great work. But just be reminded that you touch so many people and, and even the people here in Kansas City, the city that you're touching and helping. Think about the aunts and uncles and grandparents that live across the country that you were able to affect.

Aaron Heim: At any given time. You two can go to the grocery store

Steve Hower: Yeah.

Aaron Heim: And be walking by people that have no idea who you are, that your organizations have touched their lives. That's a pretty incredible thing to be a part of this thing.

Jonathan Jones: Yeah. And, and DEMDACO is grateful for the partnerships that we have with, with both of you. It helps us be better as a company. One of our core values is to be a better community citizen. It helps us to live out that value, and it also helps us to live out our mission. Our our mission is to strive to live the spirit. And you help us do that when we are able to come alongside you and what you're [00:35:00] doing in the area. So we, we appreciate both of you.

Steve Hower: Thank you.

Nicki Johnson: Thank you.

Jonathan Jones: Thank you for joining the Lift the Spirit podcast. This is Jonathan Jones and Aaron Heim with DEMDACO. And we'd like to say a special thanks to our guests on the podcast this time, Nicki Johnson from Children's Mercy Hospital and Steve Hower from Heart to Heart International. Thank you for your time and what you're doing here in the Kansas City area, and thank you all for listening.

We look forward to having you join us again.